Why is the Democratic Party establishment in the United States scared of Bernie Sanders? Polls suggest the socialist from Vermont would do about as well against Donald Trump in a general election as his rival, Joe Biden.
I suspect there are three reasons:
Democrats don’t trust the polls.
They worry that, even if Sanders might defeat Trump, he would hurt down-ballot Democrats.
The New York Times asked 93 of the 771 Democratic Party officials who will be automatically seated at the convention in July — the so-called “superdelegates” — if they would vote for Bernie Sanders if the socialist emerged with a plurality, but not a majority, of the pledged delegates.
Only nine said they would.
Sanders’ supporters are predictably up in arms, arguing the party “establishment” is conspiring to overturn “the will of the people”.
Some are threatening to sit out the election in November if their man doesn’t prevail.
You may remember that in 2016, we interpreted both the Democratic and Republican primaries in the United States through the prism of “the party decides” theory, which argues that party elites — including elected and party officials, interest group leaders and other partisan figures — coordinate before presidential nominating contests in order to help their preferred candidate win.
Or, as The Economist pithily summarized the argument: parties tell the electorate how to vote, rather than voters telling the party whom to support.
Democratic elites (everyone from the chair of the Democratic National Committee to local union bosses) did coalesce around Hillary Clinton, but many voters didn’t listen: 43 percent backed Bernie Sanders.
Remember when Trumpists were up in arms in 2016 about internal Republican attempts to deny their man the presidential nomination?
I defended such attempts at the time, arguing that Republicans had every right to use every method at their disposal to stop a candidate so patently unfit for high office and one who didn’t even share their views on foreign policy and trade. (Most Republicans have since come around to Trump’s views.)
But Donald Trump’s supporters saw an “establishment” plot and demanded that the “democratic” will of the Republican electorate be respected. (No matter that only 45 percent of primary voters supported Trump.)
NBC’s political team asks if it is fair to treat Bernie Sanders as an insurgent rather than the legitimate frontrunner in the Democratic presidential primary, given his high name recognition and the fact that he has raised more money than the other candidates.
The “invisible primary” in America’s Democratic Party is underway.
In this phase — between the most recent congressional elections and the first official announcements — presidential hopefuls quietly court donors, party bosses, friendly journalists and affiliated interest groups.
California, Illinois, New York and Texas have 30 percent of the American population between them. Yet because they are late in the primary calendar, they have almost no say in the selection of presidential candidates.
Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina have only 3 percent of the population, yet because they are first in line to vote they have disproportionate power in the process. If a candidate fails to win at least one of the first three primary states, he or she usually drops out.